There's nothing like the feeling when a game which wasn't even on your radar comes along, completely blows you away and reminds you why you love this hobby very dearly. And that's paramount. Even the best of us lose our faith sometimes. Faster Than Light is one of those games that comes out of nowhere and makes you a believer again. It is a testament to the brilliance of design over budget and as such is a shining beacon of this medium.
In Faster Than Light, the player takes on the role of a starship captain whose singular goal is to defend the Federation from a rebel threat. The concept is simple, you have to make it through seven grueling sectors to face the mammoth rebel flagship which will mercilessly put your nerves and skill to the test. It employs tough but fair school of design in which you will dearly pay for every single mistake you make, no matter how small. You may not even realize your mistake until it is too late.
You start with a barebones crew and equipment which you'll want to heavily upgrade by the time you reach the end. You'll achieve that by travelling through the galaxy, doing quests, fighting or aiding other ships or just buying whatever you can afford. This is a roguelike so every playthrough is completely different with randomized quests and loot drops. Sometimes you may feel slighted by the item drops or the difficult situations you find yourself in, but almost every piece of equipment is useful in some way and there's almost always a way out of a sticky situation. Being a roguelike also means that if you die, you have to start all over again. The sense of urgency is further heightened by the oncoming rebel fleet which won't allow you to roam the galaxy however you wish. Absolutely everything in Faster Than Light is subject to careful forethought and planning, otherwise you might just back yourself into a corner.
As the ship's captain, it is your duty to take care of absolutely everything that goes on your ship, the design is meticulously detailed. You have absolute control over a variety of systems including engines, shields, weapons, medbay, oxygen supply, helm, sensors, even doors. You also control every single crewmember. There are different races in the game and each specializes in a certain trait (except for humans). For example, Engis repair damaged systems faster, the Rock are immune to fire whereas the Mantis are great for ship intruders.
This all might sound overwhelming and there's actually a lot more various nuances to talk about here, but the tutorial is fantastic and you'll get the hang of the game quickly. This is a classic case of easy to learn, difficult to master.
The universe in Faster Than Light is pretty basic, it borrows liberally from various other sci-fi sources. Nevertheless, it is expertly put together. It is a very believable universe in which you'll learn about what's going on mostly through direct gameplay when interacting with other races and factions.
In the end, Faster Than Light is an exceptional work of game design. Its biggest accomplishment, which so few games manage to pull off, is that it draws you in, hooks you and never lets go. It is extremely addictive, even when you lose horribly and quit the game, all it takes is a few seconds and you're thinking about what you could've done differently and what tactics you will use next time you fire it up. And then you click play. Again.